Just after the turn of the century, Sturm, Ruger made an effort to produce a light side-by-side 12-gauge shotgun that could compete with what was coming out of Belgium, Spain, and Japan. This double-barreled beauty, dubbed the Gold Label, was a brief but now beloved classic.
Red Label predecessors
Back in the 1970s, Bill Ruger introduced a honey of an American-made over and under (O/U) shotgun by drawing inspiration from Browning's Superimposed and Winchester Model 21 (which had moved to overseas production by that time) and proceeded to over engineering a new shotgun. With a box-lock receiver CNC milled from a steel block, the gun was given an incredibly strong lock up. Checkered American walnut furniture fore and aft provided just the right amount of old-world styling while a set of hammer-forged barrels made of high-strength chrome-molybdenum steel and auto-ejectors at the breech completed the package.
Chambered for 3-inch shells, the double-barreled Red Label was introduced in 1977 in both 12 and 20-gauge cylinder-bore variants and while the price ran higher than domestic pumps or semi-autos it was less than most other O/Us on the market.
Fast forward a quarter century later and Ruger tried to have lightning strike twice by doing what the Red Label had for O/Us and trying the same with a SXS-- enter the Gold Label.
Chambered in 12 gauge only, the rounded boxlox-actioned Gold Label used a set of 28-inch (26 and 30 optional) blued barrels with a 3-inch chamber and relieved forcing cones. Like the Red Label it featured an AAA premium grade American Walnut Stock (in either English straight butt or pistol grip styles with a splinter forearm), brushed stainless steel receiver, a single selective trigger and Dickson-style selective ejectors.
Weighing in at just 6.33-pounds and just 45-inches long overall with the standard barrel arrangement, it was light (many argue lighter than the overly front-heavy Red Label). The gun shipped with a very impressive five steel-shot compatible choke tubes (Improved Cylinder, Skeet 1 and 2, Modified and Full) as well as a winding-style choke wrench. Retail was $1950 when it debuted in 2004.
The gun was acclaimed when it first came out. In rapid succession it was named "Shotgun of the Year" by Shooting Industry News, picked up the "Golden Bullseye" award from American Rifleman then the Ruger Gold Label was named by Gray's Sporting Journal as "Gray's Best" top choice for 2006's "best shooting" firearm.
Quoting Gray's, "What does best really mean? We think it's a product that tries a little harder, does something a little better, is a little more elegant - is somehow more satisfying than similar products. For the first time in 50 years, there's an American-made production side-by-side that is stylish, affordable, and handles as a fine shotgun should...At $2,000 you cannot beat it."
No matter how well received it was, the Gold Label was out of production by the end of that same year. (Although some guides reference, production dates of 2002-2008, Ruger only mentions a much narrower 2004-2006 window.)
Getting your own
It would appear from the serial number range that the Gold Label was produced in less than 3361 examples in the three short years that it was on the assembly line. The company still carries Briley Premium Skeet Chokes and Galco Havana brown leather barrel guards while Briley makes a series of custom chokes. Ruger still offers service on the Gold Label but seeing as they haven't produced it in going on a decade, this may stop in the near future as parts dry up.
The Gold Label also came in an optional English style straight stock
The 38-page version of the manual is here for download while Numrich stocks both the English and Pistol grip buttstock versions as well as forend wood.
Prices on these guns have hovered about what they were when introduced and in the end are worth about what the buyer is willing to pay for them. The blue books put value as high as $3500 but in checking the past 90 days online classifieds for the rare bird, we can find examples anywhere from $1800 to $2500 depending on accessories and use.
With that in mind, if you are a wing shooter, clays guy, or just all-around Ruger collector and come across a nice Gold Label at a good price: go for it.